Drug Law

Boycott Wal-Mart: Fired Joseph Casias for Treating Cancer with Medical Marijuana

| by Marijuana Policy Project

WASHINGTON— Today, the nation’s largest marijuana policy reform organization called upon shoppers across the country to boycott Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in order to protest the unjust and potentially unlawful firing of Joseph Casias, a 29-year-old medical marijuana patient and sinus cancer survivor who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. Casias’s cancer is in remission, and marijuana alleviates his pain that resulted from it. The Marijuana Policy Project is asking shoppers to demand that Wal-Mart abandon its discriminatory policy of firing employees who are legal medical marijuana patients under state law.

After dutifully working at a Wal-Mart in Battle Creek, Michigan, for five years, Casias was suddenly terminated because he tested positive for marijuana during a drug screening administered after he sprained his knee on the job. Casias, who was named store Associate of the Year in 2008, is a registered medical marijuana patient in Michigan, where it is legal to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

“It’s despicable that Wal-Mart would fire such a hardworking and seriously ill employee simply for treating his symptoms with a medicine that he is authorized to use under state law,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project and lead drafter of Michigan’s medical marijuana law. “Would Wal-Mart also fire someone for taking doctor-prescribed Percocet, or any of the other legal medications sold in many of Wal-Mart’s own stores?” 

Casias’s firing violates the “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act,” which reads in part that a qualifying patient shall not be “denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to … disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marihuana.”

Under the law, the definition of “medical use” contains “internal possession”— having marijuana in one’s system. The law does not require employers to allow the “ingestion of marihuana in any workplace” or employees to work while under the influence, but there is no allegation that Casias used marijuana at work or worked while impaired.  To add further insult to injury, Wal-Mart is contesting Casias’s eligibility for unemployment.